Leighann Smith and Daniel Jackson have spent the last four years working to define modern butchery, gaining national attention for their approach and serving some of New Orleans’s best cured and smoked meats at their shop, Piece of Meat. Now the duo is embarking on a new challenge — redefining the modern steakhouse.
Piece of Meat reopened Friday, April 8 as a full-service restaurant and bar, serving lunch, brunch dishes, and adding dinner Thursday through Saturday. It’s been a butcher shop and counter spot since opening on a tree-draped corner of Bienville and Rendon Streets in Mid City in April 2018, eventually introducing brunch and expanding patio seating, but sticking with counter service. In their first year, Smith and Jackson were together awarded Eater New Orleans’s Chefs of the Year, and Piece of Meat was named one of the best new restaurants by Food and Wine.
In early 2020, pre-pandemic, the business partners declared to neighbors their intention to expand next door with a breakfast spot and to introduce dinner. In the end, though, Piece of Meat’s reinvention didn’t go quite as initially proposed; they’ve scrapped the breakfast spot for now. “That plan kind of fell by the wayside,” says Jackson. “That feels like so long ago now,” he laughs.
Smith and Jackson closed the shop in January 2022 to renovate the existing space, getting rid of the meat locker/salami room that greeted customers at the entrance and served as a sign of what to expect (if seeing three-foot-long cuts of meat aging in a glass room didn’t excite you, perhaps you were in the wrong place). They’ve added seating, raised and decked out the bar, and stepped up the decor. It looks like a sharply imagined, modern restaurant, if not your typical steakhouse.
A few aspects of the reopened restaurant do evoke classic steakhouse, particularly the sides served a la carte. Those include what is called the Million Dollar Baked Potato, topped with crispy ribeye bits, herbed tallow, sour cream, cheddar, and green onions; as well as brown sugar carrots and roasted romanesco. There are three rotating cuts of steak on the menu in addition to a 32-ounce bone-in ribeye option for the table, roasted chicken, and a seasonal fish entree; right now it’s grilled, skin-on red fish with Calabrian chili butter.
A few small plates flex the shop’s longtime muscles: house cured ham, steak tartare, beef shank gnocchi, and marinated sardines. “The menu is meant to be succinct,” says Jackson. Clever steak toppings include bone marrow chimichurri and shallot, truffle, or blue cheese butters, but perhaps most unexpected are the beef tallow candles, not on the menu but rather lit for each table as part of the dining experience and served with grilled bread.
Piece of Meat still sells a small number of specialty sausage and cured meats on-site, and will soon roll out a meat subscription, “CSA-style,” says Jackson. It’s open for lunch Thursday through Tuesday (closed Wednesday), and serves dinner Thursday through Saturday.